Urdu, Pashto VOA websites inaccessible in Pakistan

Published December 13, 2018
A screenshot of the VOA Urdu website.
A screenshot of the VOA Urdu website.

ISLAMABAD: The Urdu and Pashto websites of international news organisation Voice of America (VOA) have reportedly been blocked in Pakistan.

Accessing the website shows an alert that reads: “Secure Connection Failed. The connection to www.urduvoa.com was interrupted while the page was loading. The page you are trying to view cannot be shown because the authenticity of the received data could not be verified.”

An official who works for VOA said that the Pashto website had been blocked a few months ago.

“However, the Urdu website became inaccessible last week after the coverage of a press conference held by the leader of Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement (PTM), Mohsin Dawar. Initially, we received complaints that the website was not accessible at some places, but later it was completely blocked,” the official said.

“Minister for Information Fawad Chaudhry was also contacted over the issue and he also confirmed that the websites were blocked.”

Ayesha Tanzeem, the VOA bureau chief for Afghanistan and Pakistan, on her Twitter account @atanzeem said: “Pakistan Tightens Coverage of Pashtun Nationalist Movement #PTM, blocks VOA’s Urdu and Deewa websites."

In a news story published on the VOA website’s English edition, it is stated that Pakistani authorities were scrutinising media coverage of the Pashtun nationalist movement, blocking VOA websites and filing police cases against journalists covering its local rallies.

About a week earlier, it said, Pakistan had ordered internet service providers to block the website of VOA’s Urdu language service. VOA’s Deewa news website, which primarily caters to the Pashto-speaking audience in the region around the Afghan border, had already been blocked for months, the report added.

The VOA report quoted Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry as saying that the sites were blocked for “false and prejudiced reporting”.

“The stories they were doing were only projecting a particular narrative without any impartial view. There are many things happening in our country and most are positive,” he told the publication.

When contacted by Dawn, Fawad Chaudhry said that the website had been blocked by the government through the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority as there were complaints that the website was being used for spreading “propaganda” against security forces and for posting prejudiced material.

Published in Dawn, December 13th, 2018

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